Part 2

The National Emblem




The Royal Symbol

The National Emblem

The Achievement of State

Kingdom of Burma

Colony of Burma

Burma State

Union of Burma




Back to Myanmar


The National Emblem




An apparently ancient coat of arms of Burma was only documented in about 1929. It is:


Arms: Argent, a peacock in his pride and a chief Gules, a lion passant Azure.


Probably these arms were meant for the southern part of the kingdom (Arakan, Tenasserim, and Pegu) annexated 1862, and before the Third Anglo Burmese War had resulted in the annexation of the remnant of the Kingdom of Awa ("Upper Burma") to British India on 1 January 1886.

The legend ‘British Protectorate’ (Engl. Schutzgebiet) may be an indication that South Burma was meant. Also, the peacock has the shape of the peacock of the royal arms of King Mindon, illustrated above.


No other sources documenting these arms are available.



In the time of British Rule the national emblem was a peacock. It was derived from the royal emblem of the Kings of Burma from the House of Taungo, the colour of the field changed from Argent to Or:


In the time of the Government of India rule (1886-1937), a coat of arms for Burma was used. It was:


Arms: Or, a peacock in his pride proper.


In about 1915 still no warrant had been issued about these arms but the arms with the peacock were in (unauthorised) general use by the time. In 1939 a peacock on a yellow disc was officially adopted as the badge of Burma. [1]


Burmese 100-rupees banknote, 1939

Showing the sovereign and the peacock of Burma


The badge was on on the British blue ensign (the Union Jack in the upper left corner) for Burma, adopted 06.02.1939. A new flag was adopted  30.03.1941 and showed the badge on an all blue cloth. At the Japanese occupation of Burma this flag disappeared.


Flag of Burma Crown Colony, 1941-‘42


In the time of the Japanese Occupation (1942-‘43) the sun flag of Japan flew over Burma.

A provisional flag was adopted in 1942 and consisted of a yellow cloth with a single green stripe charged with a red sun, in chief.



The badge or emblem of Burma State (1943-’45) consisted of a peacock on a disc, the peacock restyled for the purpose. Its colour is supposed to be green.

It might have had the shape of the following reconstruction:





Major General Aung San, Minister for War, 1943, wearing his military distinctives of Major General, the badge of Burma and the jewel of the Order  of  the Sun  (Kiokuji tsusho) 1st Class.  [2]


100 kyats note showing the emblem of Burma, 1945.

On the right the portrait of President Ba Maw.


A flag for the State of Burma was adopted 1 August 1943 and was of three stripes yellow, green and red with a red badge charged with the peacock in his pride in the middle.


Flag of Burma State, 1943-‘45




Peacock as on banknotes, 1948.


In 1948 the peacock was abandoned as a national emblem. Instead the national emblem became the map of the country, in the first achievement situated in its geographical context and surrounded by a strap with the motto “Happiness and Prosperity by Unity”.


Banknote of 100 kyat, 1958.

showing major general Aung San and the former national emblem



The first president of the Union of Birma, U Nu was overthrown by a military coup on 2 March 1962. He was put into custody by the new military regime for four years and was released in 1966. In a press conference held in London on 27 August 1969, U Nu stated that he was the ‘legal Prime Minister’ and ‘pledged to the people of Burma’ that he would not give up his struggle for democracy in Burma. Later he formed the Parliamentary Democracy Party (PDP) and led an armed resistance group. This resistance group consisted of no more than several hundred or at most a few thousand at its peak and his avowal to fight and overthrow Ne Win from the Thai border met with abject failure.

The movement ‘restored’ the former national emblem which was applied on its coins struck in 1970-’71.

4 mu coin

showing a peacock in his pride



At the estab;lisment of the Socialist Republic in 1974 the national emblem was changed into a cogwheel, charged with the map of Burma and surrounded by a garland of ears of rice.

By Constitution of 2008 the national emblem was changed again by omitting the cogwheel and replacing the ears of rice by branches of laurel.


The Achievement


The Thrones


As the heraldic achievement is a kind of  condensed picture of the political organisation of a people the Burmese thrones can be seen as very elaborate  heraldic achievements as the contain symbols for political institutions making a picture of the political constellation as a whole. Such ‘achievements’ are very rare and usually of quite recent times. Burma is a peculiar exception of the rule.

A fresco of a Bagan Temple from the first Myanmar Empire ((1057-1287/1312) shows a throne, the king and his queens sitting in a spired structure on top of a lotus. Below him are five officials and the throne is between two winged sun-carts, the disc of the first charged with a rabbit, the disc of the other charged with a peacock. Also we see constellations of stars (represented by red dots), each symbolized by an animal.

In terms of a configuration of socio-political symbols the fresco shows the symbols of the Empire, the State and the Ruler. This structure is surrounded by the symbols for the different parts, peoples or tribes of the Empire, each symbolized by a constellation of stars.


Fresco from a Bagan Temple 13th century (?)

* In this context we must point at the fact that such a configuration is common for almost all highly organized societies, the animals usually symbolizing their composing parts. Early examples date from Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia but we may also find examples in Pictish Scotland. In the 19th century imperial achievements of the Habsburg Monarchy we also find symbols symbolizing the Empire, the State and the Ruler. In the larger achievement of the Austrian Empire this composition is surrounded by the symbols for its different parts. The Habsburg achievement is paralelled by the 19th century achievements of Prussia and the Russian Empire.

Another interesting point is that de queen’s and king’s symbols are in the very old tradition of the pharaonic Egyptian emblem of state, consisting of a winged red sun surrounded by two cobras. This is paralelled by the the red sun charged with the peacock / rabbit,  supported by  the winged sun-cart.


The Lion Throne in Bago

Such elaborate thrones, but of a slightly different style, were also made by Bayin Naung (1551-’81) the fourth king of Taungoo (1531-1751) in Bago. Recently his palace, the Kanbawazathadi Golden Palace and the Bee Throne and the Lion Throne there, have been reconstructed.


During the reign of king Mindon (1853-’78) nine thrones were made of traditional design. [3]  It is not known how long this tradition existed but it may reach back at least until the first Myanmar Empire (1057-1287/1312).

The thrones of King Mindon, and in particular the Lion Throne, closely follow the scheme of the Bagan throne and continue the tradition of the thrones of the Kanbawazathadi Palace.

According to a rare palm leaf manuscript written by a Royal architect named Shwe Taung Nawrahta in 1816, there were not only rigid rules and specifications for each throne but elaborate ceremonies to be performed even during the carving process. All nine thrones must be carved simultaneously in a specially built and

decorated workshop. The wood had to be cut from unblemished trees, one type of wood for each type of throne, and the tree must have grown on ‘untainted’ ground such as places far from cemeteries. The Mandalay thrones were carved simultaneously on Friday, the 11th Waning Moon Month of Kason, BE 1220, which would be sometime in May of 1858. Mandalay officially became the capital in 1859.

The thrones are showered with symbols and they are, at least for a part, a reflection of the Buddhist universe, the king being its centre. Each of the nine thrones symbolizes an aspect of the royal authority and a place is also reserved for the symbol of the empire and for the symbols of the judicial and executive authorities. The thrones are:


1. The 1st Lion-throne is the most important throne and was placed in the Hall of Earth (Mrenan). Here the most important ceremonies of state took place. Foreign embassies, oath of fealthy, homage and presents of subjects and vassals were received here. On these occasions eight white umbrellas were set up, four on each side of the throne.

Lion Throne of King Mindon, 1858.  [4]


Part of King Mindon’s Lion Throne showing the symbols for the State and the Ruler.

The Ruler represented by his image and by a peacock and a hare.


This throne was made of Yamanay wood (Gmelina Arborea), a rare light wood also used to carve marionettes and was 10.40 m high and 3.68 m wide.  The base is in the form of two lotusflowers, one upright, and the lower one inverted. Inside three horizontal bands there are small niches with lion figurines.

The top of the throne widens and flares up at the sides. In the very center of the lintel is a spire with a figure of the Celestial King. He represents protection of the Buddhist faith, and fairness in judging the people. Just above his image, there are the Nine Noble Gems: Ruby for Glory, Diamond for Honour, Pearl for Grace, Coral for greatness, Zircon for Strength, Sapphire for Adoration, Cat's Eye for Power, Topaz for Health and Emerald for Peace.

On the lintel itself there are figures of  celestial beings, eight on each side, standing  on lotus blossoms.

On either side of the throne on the doorjambs are four figures of Sama Deva Good Celestials. They represent the fact that the king sits in the center of the four corners of the earth. In the middle of the jamb are, on the right, a  rabbit, and a peacock on the left. They are the symbols for the moon and the sun and signify eternal brilliance.

At the bottom of each jamb are carvings of a lion and an elephant fighting. The legend goes that as these two powerful animals fought, causing great damage to the earth, a Deva (Celestial Being) called the Lawka Nat appeared to sing and dance. His music soothed the anger of the beasts. The Lawka Nat figures are placed in the center of each door panel. This legend is set into the throne to symbolize the power of the king as arbiter of disputes and one who brings peace to the land.

On each side of the throne there is a figure of a Kainaree and a Kainara, the birdhuman people. They symbolize faithfulness, as well as joy in the propagation of Buddhism. In a row in front of the throne there are eight figures of male children, hands raised in prayer. They symbolize growth, and as a child grows so would the King's glory increase.


Hall of Victories with Lion Throne and Hluttaw in conference.


2. The 2nd Lion-throne was a copy of the first throne and was placed in the Hall of Victories chamber of the Hluttaw building, where the king conferred with his ministers twice a day.


Hluttaw refers to the Council of Ministers at the court. The hluttaw was primarily responsible for the public affairs of the state. It registered royal edicts, issued royal letters and tried most important cases. It was composed of the chief ministers, wungyi, normally four in number. Each was a sort secretary of state; together they controlled every department of the government. The sessions of the hluttaw were presided over by the king, the heir apparent or a senior wungyi. [5]


The sun and moon, the flying elephant (lokanat) and the lion (kinnara) were on the Lion- and Lotus-thrones only.  The sun and moon are on the middle of the posts of the doors opening to the throne itself. On it are “a peacock as a symbol of the sun and a hare as a symbol of the moon, symbolizing together everlasting brilliance and glory”. These symbols are alo interpreted to be the emblems of the ancestors of the Burmese Royal House because they claimed descend of the Sun- and Moon-dynasties of India.


The other seven thrones, of less interest for us, were kept in various pavilions used for special purposes:


The Bhamara Thana Throne (the Bee Throne) was made from Karaway wood (of the Cinnamomum spp. family) and kept in the Glass Palace. The bee is believed to be a wise creature and thus the use of it as a motif symbolized the King's wisdom. This throne was not so ornately decorated. Here, the ceremonies to honour favourite daughters take place as well as their ears-piercing rituals. At those occasions Their Majesties would bestow on the princesses gifts of servants, elephants, cattle, golden barges, orchards etc.

The Padumma Thana Throne, with the lotus motif was carved from the wood of mango (Mangifera indica), and kept in the Ladies' Audience Hall. It was made in exactly the same style as the Lion Throne with only the difference in motif. In a wider sense the lotus is the symbol of administration.

The deer motif Miga Thana Throne was in the South samoke chamber to the far right of the Glass Palace, and made from a kind of fig, the Yay th'phan Thar wood. (Ficus gloremata).

The deer motif symbolized prosperity for the nation. From this throne the King would inspect gifts to be made to the religious Order, and in this chamber novitiation ceremonies of his sons took place. In a wider sense the deer is the symbol of the (religious) teacher.

The Marura Thana Throne made of Padauk wood (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) and bearing peacock motifs was kept in the North samoke pavilion. Here he received feudal lords of other nationalities who came with gifts of elephants and horses. In the Jataka tales, the Buddha-to-be as a golden peacock had overcome all dangers by his love. In a wider sense the peacock is the emblem of a high ranking official, in the western ancient world the symbol of a prefect, in China and its sphere of influence the insignia of a civil official of the third rank.

The Hintha bird based Hantha Thana Throne was made from a kind of hardwood Thingan sometimes called the Rock Dhamma. This was kept in the Zaytawun pavilion set behind the Glass Palace. This was also where foreign dignitaries had their insignia.


The Hintha or Brahminy duck is a symbol of the Mon people who believe their former capital Bago was founded on a site where a pair of Hintha had dwelt. Pictures of the Hintha bird show duck-like birds but they can be determined as geese as well as ducks. In the Chinese rank system the goose (Anser) is the insignia of a civil official of the fourth rank. A Mandarin-duck (Aix galericulata - Anatinæ) is the badge of rank of a civil official of the seventh rank. The Karaweik Palace, the Royal Burmese barge, has the form of two Mandarin-ducks whilst the symbols of the Mon-people have the form of geese.


The Heraldic Achievements


The oldest more achievement-like composition in relation with Burma is a woodcarving over the entrance of Wat Pan Tao Temple in Chiang Mai. This temple was built in the 14th century. In 1557 Chiang Mai was captured by the Taungoo king of Burma, Bayin Naung (1551-‘81). The Burmese occupation ended in 1774 and thus the Wat Pan Tao woordcarving may date from the Burmese occupation of Chiang Mai.


Woodcarving over the entrance of Wat Pan Tao in Chiang Mai (Thailand).


This woodcarving can be described in heraldic blasoning:


Emblem: A peacock (mayura) guardant, a leopard between its feet.

Crest: A pagoda upheld by two monkeys (hanuman) and four snakes (naga)

Supporters: Two brahminy duck (hinthar).


In this achievement:

The peacock is the royal symbol

The leopard may be the symbol of a military official of the third rank, probably the governor of Chiang Mai

The pagoda is the symbol of Buddhist religion

The naga’s are the guardians of the king and may refer to the servants of Virupaksa, one of the four Heavenly Kings who guards the western direction (i.e. Burma).

The monkeys are the symbol of Hanuman, the monkey-defender of Rama.

The ducks are the symbol of the Mon-people of Bago/Pegu and Western Thailand.


The meaning of the achievement could be: The royal buddhist military government of the governor of Chiang Mai.


It is said that the peacock is a common motif in temple decorations of northern Thailand. The function of these temple decorations would have been to stress the fact that the territory was a part of Burma.


At the end of the reign of Mindon or at the beginning of the reign of Thibaw the throne-system was “summarized” by a Western-style achievement consisting of a red disc (symbolizing the sun or the empire) charged with a peacock (symbolizing the King), supported by two national flags, symbolizing the mandate of the nation.


Arms: Gules, a peacock in his pride proper.

Supporters: Two National flags being white, charged with the royal arms.


This achievement was used until the overthrow of the kingdom in 1885.


* On this picture there is also a royal flag, consisting of a white cloth charged with the royal peacock. This flag was seen for the first time in 1852.


British Rule



Direct Rule



When British rule was established the royal british achievement was introduced in Birma. This consisted of a western-style heraldic composition, developed by the Kings of England. Its centerpiece was the royal coat of arms:

Arms: Quarterly, in the first and the fourth England, in the second Scotland and in the third Ireland.

Crest: A royal crown surmounted by a crowned lion passant guardant

Order: The strap of the Order of the Garter.

Supporters: On the dexter a crowned lion guardant and on the sinister a unicorn Argent, crowned and shackled Or.

Motto: DIEU ET MON DROIT in golden lettering on a ribbon Azure.


Government of India Rule

Self governing Colony


1937-1942 / 1945-1948


Japanese Occupation



In the time of Japanese Occupation the symbols of Japan were valid in Burma


State of Burma / Biruma Koku /

Nainggan Daw Adipati



No achievement of the State of Burma is known


British Interim Government

British Crown Colony of Burma



In the post WWII period the achievement of the United Kingdom was agian valid in Burma


Federal Republic



Pindaungsu Myanma-Nainggan-Daw




Arms: Circular: The map of South-East Asia, the sea dark blue, the continent light blue and Burma white, surrounded by a strap Gules with the motto “Happiness and Prosperity by Unity”

Crest: A stone cinthe sejant affrontée proper.

Supporters: Two stone cinthe’s sejant and lambrequines Or.

Motto:  Pindaungsu Myanma-Nainggan-Daw, being te name of the country, in burmese lettering, on a ribbon Tenné.


Pindaungsu Socialist Thammada Myanma Nainggan Daw  




Arms: Azure, a cogwheel Argent charged with the map of Burma Gules, surrounded by a garland Or.

Crest: A five-pointed star Argent.

Supporters: Two stone cinthe’s sejant and lambrequines Or.

Motto:  Pindaungsu Socialist Thammada  Myanma-Nainggan-Daw, being te name of the country, in burmese lettering.


UNION OF BURMA / Pindaungsu Myanma-Nainggan-Daw

1989.06.18 - 2008



Achievement as before, all Or. The name of the nation changed accordingly





The achievement of state of the Republic was adopted by constitutiuon of 2008:


Constitution of the Republic of the

Union of Myanmar



Chapter XIII

State Flag, State Seal, National Anthem and Capital


437. (a) The State Flag shall be as shown below :



(b) Law shall be promulgated concerning the State Flag.


438. (a) The State Seal shall be as shown below :



Arms: Gules, the map of Myanma within a garland Or.

Crest: A five-pointed star Or.

Supporters: Two lions sejant and lambrequines Or.

Motto:  Pindaungsu Myanma Nainggan-Daw, being the name of the country in burmese lettering


Æ  See illustration in the head of this essay:


Armed Forces



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© Hubert de Vries 2012-03-27


[1] Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles: The Book of Public Arms. A Complete Encyclopaedia of all Royal, Territorial, Municipial, Corporate Official and Impersonal Arms. Edinburgh, 1915. P. 130

[2] The military distinctives of the Burmese Army were inspired by the japanese system. The 1st class of the Order of  the Sun was granted to members of  the Ruling Houses of smaller sovereign states, the members of high nobility of these Houses, to generals and admirals and to officers of the army or the navy of the same rank, to extraordinary ambassadors, lieutenants general and vice admirals on special occasions, and to extraordinary envoys and authorized ministers residing for more than three years in Japan, on special occasions.

[3]  Yi-Yi: The Thrones of the Burmese Kings. In: Journal of the Burmese Research Society, XLIII, ii, Dec. 1960 pp. 97 - 125.

[4]  Taw Sein Ko, The Mandalay Palace, Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Reports (1902-1903), pp. 95-103.

[5]  Bečka, Jan: Historical Dictionary of Myanmar. London 1995.